Why We Will Not Bring Liberty to Iraq
by Donald Ray Burger
Attorney at Law

First of all, I admit I have rephrased the issue. The talk is all about bringing "democracy" to Iraq. "Democracy" is a good word for a politician to choose. That is because it is a "feel good" concept, susceptible to a variety of meanings. For most Americans, democracy means rule by majority vote. And, I fear, many believe that democracy is the form of government we have here in the United States.

Of course, it isn't. We have a republic, and a constitutional republic at that. The founders of this country did not set out to create a democracy. They set out to create a form of government where liberty was the watchword. And they believed that the existence of liberty was not at the whim of a vote of the majority. We must never forget that, when the push came to adopt our Constitution, the demand was overwhelming that, even with the checks and balances in the original articles, the constitution must include a Bill of Rights. These were the inalienable rights that belonged to the individual. Not subject to abrogation by the government--even in the face of a majority vote.

The founders recognized that there were fundamental rights possessed by individuals because of the nature of man, not because of the grace of government--and not by the permission of the majority.

Back to Iraq. I believe we will quickly achieve a military victory over the armed forces of Iraq. The next problem will become what we do with Iraq once we have conquered it. The President and his advisors have been less than detailed on this. There have been no specifics forthcoming about what type of government will be installed in Iraq, beyond vague platitudes that it will be a democracy.

I guess that means that there will be elections. But elections for what? Will the Iraqis be given no more than a chance to vote on their new (and hopefully more benevolent) dictator? Will it be that version of democracy that some have characterized as one man, one vote, one time? Will the Iraqis get a chance to vote for a constitutional republic? Will all Iraqis get to vote? Women too? Will there be protection for property rights? For civil rights? For freedom of religious worship? For trial by jury? Will an independent court system be established? Will there be public trials by a jury of one's peers? Will there be a presumption of innocence? If not, how many of the fundamental liberties we in this country enjoy will be "required?" If a majority of Iraqis decide to oppress the minorities, will we sit by, if they "freely" choose that course?

Will we insist on a quota system, with the Sunnites and Shi'ites (and Kurds) getting their share of government jobs, loot and offices? Or will we endorse private ownership of the oil in Iraq such as we have in the United States, with oil companies forced to deal with private land owners for the extraction of oil?

Of all the forms of government out there to choose from, will we force the Iraqis to pick our constitutional republican form? Or will we allow them to become a socialist dictatorship, if the majority so decides? Will we prohibit chains, or will we allow chains, so long as they rest comfortably on the shoulders of individual Iraqis?

I fear that President Bush and his advisors have no predisposition toward liberty for Iraqis. The mindset necessary to preemptively invade a country is not the mindset needed to advocate economic and civil liberties for individuals.

Governments prefer more order. I'm sure the Bush Administration wants a strong leader with whom they can deal, and on whom they can "depend." The untidiness necessary when a nation tastes liberty is not what President Bush wants. Stability (as envisioned by bureaucrats) is anathema to nascent liberty.

I fear the Bush Administration will seek a strong, stable leader, with whom they can deal. Diversity of opinion is not a virtue normally held in high regard by powerful leaders. There is no reason to believe the Bush Administration will value such diversity.

History also argues that we will not establish liberty in the newly conquered Iraq. Never yet have we insisted that a country we have militarily occupied choose a republican form of government. Never yet have we insisted that the new "leaders" honor individual rights and freedoms. We have been content to let new strongmen take over, so long as their killing and looting is restrained and off the front pages. Not exactly the noble goals most people envision when they think of bringing "democracy" to a conquered country.

Perhaps it is time we stopped kidding ourselves. Whatever the reasons given for an attack on Iraq, we should not comfort ourselves in the belief that we will be bringing liberty to the people of Iraq.

March 15, 2003
Copyright © 2003 Donald Ray Burger. All Rights Reserved.

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